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Assessing Mineral Resources in Society:

Metal Stocks &


Recycling Rates
Acknowledgements
2
Acknowledgements
copyright United Nations Environmental Programme, 2011
Editor: International Resource Panel, Working Group on the
Global Metal Flows
Lead author of both reports is T. E. Graedel. This summary
booklet was prepared by T. E. Graedel, M. Buchert, B. K. Reck,
and G. Sonnemann.
Scientific advice: ko-Institut e. V.
The first report on metal stocks in society is a rewritten and
enhanced version based on M. D. Gerst and T. E. Graedel,
Environmental Science & Technology, 42, 70387045, 2008.
Parts of it were developed at a workshop held August 1516,
2008, with the following participants: Thomas Graedel, Yale
University, USA, coordinator; A. Dubreuil, Natural Resources
Canada; Michael Gerst, Dartmouth College; Seiji Hashimoto,
National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan; Yuichi
Moriguchi, National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan;
Daniel Mller, Norwegian University of Science and Technol-
ogy; Claudia Pena, CIMM, Chile; Jason Rauch, Yale University,
USA; Thompson Sinkala, School of Mines, Zambia; and Guido
Sonnemann, UNEP, France.
Portions of the report on recycling rates of metals have ap-
peared in the Journal of Industrial Ecology article by Graedel
et al. (2011): What Do We Know About Metal Recycling Rates?
Authors of the second report report are T. E. Graedel, Yale
University, USA, Julian Allwood, Cambridge University, UK,
Jean-Pierre Birat, Arcelor-Mittal, France, Matthias Buchert,
ko-Institut, Germany, Christian Hagelken, Umicore Precious
Metals Refining, Germany/Belgium;, Barbara K. Reck, Yale
University, USA, Scott F. Sibley, US Geological Survey (USGS),
USA, and Guido Sonnemann, UNEP, France
Guido Sonnemann, UNEP, supervised the preparation of this
report and provided valuable input and comments.
Thanks go to Ernst Ulrich von Weizscker and Ashok Khosla as
co-chairs of the Resource Panel, the members of the Resource
Panel and the Steering Committee for fruitful discussions.
Additional comments of a technical nature were received from
some governments participating in the Steering Committee.
Helpful comments were received from several anonymous
reviewers in two peer review processes coordinated in an
efficient and constructive way by respectively by Lea Kauppi
and Yvan Hardy together with the Resource Panel Secretariat.
The preparation of this report also benefitted from discussions
with many colleagues at various meetings, although the main
responsibility for errors will remain with the authors.
Photos: istockphoto.de: James Whittaker (cover_1, p. 3),
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p. 5), JDNY59 (cover_4, p. 5), Marco Hegener (cover_5, p. 5,
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Sam Faltenbergs (p. 13_1, p. 16), Dieter Spears (p. 13_3),
Ralph125 (p. 13_4), Therry Wilson (p. 13_5), Yonra Pechkin
(p. 13_7, p. 20_3), gerenme (p. 13_8, p. 20_1), Prill Mediende-
sign & Fotografie (p. 14), Mike Clarke (p. 17_1), Peter van
Vuuren (p. 17_2), Sheldunov Andrey (p. 18), Huguette Roe
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Kazmierski (p. 29_1), Kyu Oh (p. 29_2), Thadford (p. 31). De-
gussa (p. 24). Shutterstock Tobias Machhaus (p. 26). Umicore
(p. 27). ko-Institut e. V. (p. 13_6, p. 28_2).
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3
The following is an excerpt of the
first two reports of the Global
Metals Flows Group
The full reports are available on CD-ROM
(available inside the back page of this sum-
mary booklet).
Metal Stocks in Society:
Scientic Synthetis
recycling Rates of Metals:
A Status Report
Preface
4
Preface
The pace of industrialization around the
world has brought with it an enormous in-
crease in the use of materials, as well as
increasing concern about long-term ma-
terials supply potential. A possible way to
cope with supply challenges is to recover
and reuse discarded materials in industri-
al and consumer products, thus recycling
our way to sustainability.
To see whether such a plan isfeasible re-
quires information: What quantities of
the various materials are now in use and
therefore potentially available for reuse
at some time in the future? How well do
we recycle discarded materials? How far
could we improve our recycling perfor-
mance? The Metal Flows Group of the In-
ternational Resource Panel (IRP) has ad-
dressed the first two of these questions in
the case of metals in its reports In-Use
Stocks of Metals and Recycling Rates of
Metals. In late 2011 or early 2012 a third
report will examine recycling technologies.
Together with reports on geological stocks
and on scenarios for future demand, the
two reports summarized in this present
document will help paint a picture of the
planets potential industrial future.
In-use stocks of metals invite for docu-
mentation at national levels of such stock
and for industrial plans of later use. The
report on recycling rates of metals, con-
taining stupendous figures of low recycling
rates of most of the high tech spice met-
als, calls for strategic action to increase
the recovery of those metals. Industrial
design should be improved with a view of
easy recovery even of small quantities of
them, and advanced techniques of sepa-
rating metals should be developed. Fasci-
nating tasks for a new generation of engi-
neers!
Prof. Ernst U. von Weizscker
Co-Chair of the International Panel
for Sustainable Resource Management
Prof. Thomas E. Graedel
Leader of the
Global Metal Flows Working Group
Preface
5
A transition to a green economy is already
underway, a point underscored in UNEPs
Green Economy report and a growing
wealth of companion studies by internation-
al organizations, countries, corporations
and civil society. But the challenge is clearly
to build on this momentum. A green econo-
my does not favour one political perspective
over another. It is relevant to all economies,
be they state or more market-led. Rio +20
offers a real opportunity to scale-up and
embed these green shoots.
Metals are a core, centre-piece of the glob-
al, economy: Whether it be in the manu-
facture of buildings or cars to the booming
production of mobile phone, computers and
other electronic goods, metals have be-
come increasingly important to commerce.
But metals are also part of the challenge
society is facing in its transition to a low
carbon, resource efficient 21st Green Econ-
omy. Metals are a finite resource, whose
management, consumption and produc-
tion echo to the need to adopt a recycling
economy.
Understanding, quantifying and estimating
the ways metals flow through economies
is part of the solution to better manag-
ing their impacts and their benefits. Indeed
the International Resource Panel, hosted
by UNEP and established in 2007, identi-
fied metals as a key area in terms of the
21st century sustainability challenge. The
Panels Global Metal Flows Group has so
far prepared two reports on Metal Stocks in
Society and Recycling Rates of Metals. This
booklet gives the key findings of both re-
ports.
The first report provides from a global per-
spective, the best scientific information
available on the quantity of metal stocks
in the world and the second report makes
available to governments and industry the
relevant baseline information on metal re-
cycling rates, also at a global scale, to fos-
ter recycling and make more intelligent and
targeted decisions on metals management
worldwide. This is the first time ever that
this information has been brought together
in such a comprehensive way.
I congratulate the Resource Panel for tak-
ing on this difficult task and providing us
with the scientific insights we all need to
help us move towards a Green Economy.
Achim Steiner
UN Under-Secretary General and
Executive Director UNEP
Preface
6
International Panel for Sustainable
Resource Management
The Resource Panel was established to pro-
vide independent, coherent and authoritative
scientific assessments of policy relevance
on the sustainable use of natural resources
and in particular their environmental impacts
over the full life cycle. It aims to contribute
to a better understanding of how to decouple
economic growth from environmental degra-
dation.
Global Metal Flows Group
The UNEPs Resource Panel launched the
Global Metal Flows Group for a better un-
derstanding of global material flows of used
metals. A key question hereby is whether so-
ciety needs to be concerned about long-term
supplies of certain metals. The Global Met-
al Flows Group has the order to promote the
reuse and recycling activities of metals and
the establishment of the international sound
material-cycle society by providing scientific
and authoritative assessment studies on the
global flows of metals.
This summary booklet is based on the re-
cently finished reports Metal Stocks in Soci-
ety: Scientific Synthesis and The Recycling
Rates of Metals: A Status Report.
Relevance of metals for sustainable
development
Economic development is deeply coupled
with the use of metals. During the 20 th cen-
tury the variety of metal applications grew
rapidly.
Modes of applications range between bulk
goods composed of base metals and elec-
tronic applications like mobile phones which
contain lots of different metals with only min-
imal amounts. The usage of certain met-
al containing applications implicates posi-
tive environmental effects. Such sustainable
technologies are, for example, photovolta-
ic modules, batteries, or catalysts. The re-
duction of negative environmental effects is
hereby achieved because inefficient technolo-
gies are replaced.
Concerns about metals and UNEPs activities
Concerns
7
Relevance
8
Relevance of stocks in society and metals recycling
Global metals demand a multiple
challenge
Nearly all mineral resources show a signifi-
cant growth in demand over the last few de-
cades. Not only industrialized countries, but
also emerging economies and developing
countries utilize metals to enhance their eco-
nomic and social prosperity. The growing de-
mand implies a permanent pressure on natu-
ral resources. The fear of scarcity and de-
pendence is growing, as are concerns about
negative environmental effects and social and
political tensions.
Increasing stocks in society
Metals are present everywhere around us
as metals can be regarded as the founda-
tion upon which our economies are built. This
economic growth increases the amount of
metals used in our societies. Metals remain
as steel bars in our houses, as copper cables
for communication, railway tracks, or as jew-
ellery. If we take a closer look at ourselves,
our share of computers, kitchen equipment,
mobile phones, etc. forms an individual stock
of metals. Stocks in society are increasing
not only in industrialized and emerging econ-
omies, but also in developing countries. In
many countries inadequate recycling infra-
structures and illegal imports of discharged
metal-containing used and end-of-life prod-
ucts accelerate this development.
Metals recycling as a sustainability
strategy
Recycling is a way to mitigate negative im-
pacts on increasing metals demand and to
assure the potentials of economic growth.
For instance, the largest municipal recycling
park in China is capable of recovering one
million tons of copper per year. The largest
copper mine in China produces less than half
of that. This urban mining is important in
generating secondary raw materials. Hence,
strengthening the recycling of metals is a key
strategy for a sustainable future.
9
10
Metals under investigation
Metals under investigation
The following graphic of the periodic table of elements demonstrates the sixty metals
which are under the focus of the Global Metals Flow Group. The different colors indicate
the classification of the elements into four different groups: ferrous metals; non-ferrous
meals; precious metals and specialty metals. The groupings are not to be understood as
rigid, but refer to the fields of application.
1
H
2
He
3
Li
Lithium
4
Be
Beryllium
5
B
Boron
6
C
7
N
8
O
9
F
10
Ne
11
Na
12
Mg
Magne-
sium
13
Al
Aluminum
14
Si
15
P
16
S
17
Cl
18
Ar
19
K
20
Ca
21
Sc
Scandium
22
Ti
Titanium
23
V
Vanadium
24
Cr
Chromium
25
Mn
Manga-
nese
26
Fe
Iron
27
Co
Cobalt
28
Ni
Nickel
29
Cu
Copper
30
Zn
Zinc
31
Ga
Gallium
32
Ge
Germani-
um
33
As
Arsenic
34
Se
Selenium
35
Br
36
Kr
37
Rb
38
Sr
Strontium
39
Y
Yttrium
40
Zr
Zirconium
41
Nb
Niobium
42
Mo
Molybde-
num
43
Tc
44
Ru
Ruthenium
45
Rh
Rhodium
46
Pd
Palladium
47
Ag
Silver
48
Cd
Cadmium
49
In
Indium
50
Sn
Tin
51
Sb
Antimony
52
Te
Tellurium
53
I
54
Xe
55
Cs
56
Ba
Barium
5771 72
Hf
Hafnium
73
Ta
Tantalum
74
W
Tungsten
75
Re
Rhenium
76
Os
Osmium
77
Ir
Iridium
78
Pt
Platinum
79
Au
Gold
80
Hg
Mercury
81
Tl
Thallium
82
Pb
Lead
83
Bi
Bismuth
84
Po
85
At
86
Rn
87
Fr
88
Ra
89103 104
Rf
105
Db
106
Sg
107
Sg
108
Hs
109
Mt
110
Ds
111
Rg
112
Uub
113
Uut
114
Uug
115
Uup
116
Uuh
117
Uus
118
Uuo
57
La
Lantha-
num
58
Ce
Cerium
59
Pr
Praseo-
dymium
60
Nd
Neodymi-
um
61
Pm
62
Sm
Samarium
63
Eu
Europium
64
Gd
Gadolini-
um
65
Tb
Terbium
66
Dy
Dysprosi-
um
67
Ho
Holmium
68
Er
Erbium
69
Tm
Thulium
70
Yb
Ytterbium
71
Lu
Lutetium
89
Ac
90
Th
91
Pa
92
U
93
Np
94
Pu
95
Am
96
Cm
97
Bk
98
Cf
99
Es
100
Fm
101
Md
102
No
103
Lr
Ferrous Metals
V Vanadium
Cr Chromium
Mn Manganese
Fe Iron
Ni Nickel
Nb Niobium
Mo Molybdenum
Non-Ferrous Metals
Mg Magnesium
Al Aluminum
Ti Titanium
Co Cobalt
Cu Copper
Zn Zinc
Sn Tin
Pb Lead
Precious Metals
Ru Ruthenium
Rh Rhodium
Pd Palladium
Ag Silver
Os Osmium
Ir Iridium
Pt Platinum
Au Gold
11 11
Specialty Metals
Li Lithium
Be Beryllium
B Boron
Sc Scandium
Ga Gallium
Ge Germanium
As Arsenic
Se Selenium
Sr Strontium
Y Yttrium
Zr Zirconium
Cd Cadmium
In Indium
Sb Antimony
Te Tellurium
Ba Barium
La Lanthanum
Ce Cerium
Pr Praseodymium
Nd Neodymium
Sm Samarium
Eu Europium
Gd Gadolinium
Tb Terbium
Dy Dysprosium
Ho Holmium
Er Erbium
Tm Thulium
Yb Ytterbium
Lu Lutetium
Hf Hafnium
Ta Tantalum
W Tungsten
Re Rhenium
Hg Mercury
Tl Thallium
Bi Bismut
Grouping of metals
For a better understanding, the following table relates the full name of the metals to their
symbols under the classification of the four groups in the order of their atomic number.
Grouping of metals
Metal stocks in society
12
Metal stocks in society
Life cycle of metals
Before metals are embedded in certain prod-
ucts several process steps are required. Be-
ginning from natural resources, the metal-
containing ores are extracted and purified
because natural stocks rarely exist in pure
form. Subsequently, the concentrated ores
are transformed into metals, either on-site
or after transportation to a smelting facil-
ity. After further refining processes, metals
or metal compounds are traded or further
processed into specific components used in
different applications. The lifetime of the dif-
ferent products and thus the embedded met-
als within them varies fundamentally from
weeks in the case of beverage cans, to de-
cades or even centuries in the case of con-
struction and infrastructure.
Development of stocks
Along the process steps and the use of the
metals different kind of stocks may develop.
On the mining site beside unmined ores
by-products as tailings ponds still containing
low concentrations of different metals are
accumulated. During the various process and
manufacturing steps processor stockpiles
are possible, despite usually short retention
times. The governments of some states like
Japan, China and the United States addition-
ally maintain stockpiles of strategic metals.
Notwithstanding the above, the in-use stocks
in the manifold applications and products
are without question the most relevant met-
al stocks in society. Therefore, in-use met-
al stocks are a focus of the UNEP Resource
Panel.
Landfills urban mines of the
future?
Even after the discharge of the metal con-
taining products, further stockpiles can be
identified: within recycling facilities and to
a much larger extent in man-made land-
fills set up for the final fate of waste flows.
In the case of copper a global stockpile of
225million metric tones are estimated to re-
side in landfills. If a metal-containing prod-
uct is taken out of service, it is not automati-
cally recycled or landfilled. For example, in
the case of obsolete undersea cables the
containing metal is no longer in use, but has
not yet been recovered and recycled. These
hibernating stocks are potentially reusable,
but their recovery may not be economically
feasible.
13
Metal Stock
Locations
Un-mined Ores
Production
Fabrication/
Manufacturing
Waste Management
Use
Tailing Stocks

Natural Stocks
Governmental Stocks
In-Use Stocks
Stocks in
Recycling Facilities
Landfill Stocks
Processor Stockpiles Fabrication Stocks
In-use stocks
14
In-use stocks
The global dimension
As already described, all metals put into use
and currently providing service are regarded
as in-use stocks. A broad variety of different
metal-containing applications can be found
in all societies. The private and public sector,
as well as the industrial sector, all use met-
als for their purposes, and modern technolo-
gies tend to choose a whole bundle of dif-
ferent metals for the purpose of utilizing the
specific properties of the individual metals.
For example, a mobile phone contains over
60 different metals: indium in the LCD Dis-
play, tantalum in capacitors, and gold on the
conductor boards. The amount of each metal
in a mobile phone is small. It is the sum of
globally used mobile phones that contribute
to relevant total metal amounts.
Metal stock per capita
The continued increase in the use of metals
over the 20th century has led to the phenom-
enon of a substantial shift in metal stocks
from below the ground to above the ground
in the form of applications in society. Such a
shift raises social, economic, and environ-
mental issues that cannot be addressed with-
out quantifying the amount of metal stock
per capita utilized by society, or within cer-
tain geographic borders.
Material flow analysis characterizes and
quantifies flows of materials into, out of, and
through a system of interest. The choice of
scale can be spatial, quantitative, or tempo-
ral. Consequently, when talking about in-use
stocks, beside the quantitative scale (how
much of a metal is in a certain stock?), the
temporal aspect has to be considered as well
(how long does a metal remain in a particu-
lar use?).
Global in-use
stocks of
Copper
Copper per Capita in Different Cities
Capetown 2000
Bejing, City Center 2004
Stockholm 1995
Sydney, Metropolitan Area 2002
Sydney, City Center 2002
0 200 300 100
kg/Capita
400 500 600
15
Current situation
Current situation
Differences in urban in-use stocks
Using the example of copper, the bar chart
below left shows in-use stocks per capita for
different cities. The usage of copper relies to
its capability to transfer electricity with only
minimal losses. Therefore, copper is widely
used for electrical infrastructure in buildings.
It is obvious that stocks in cities of more-de-
veloped countries possess significantly high-
er amounts of in-use stocks per capita than
in cities of less developed countries. Regard-
ing the capital of Sweden, Stockholm, the
amount of copper in-use stocks per capita is
nearly four times higher than in Cape Town,
South Africa. And Sydney shows even high-
er figures than Stockholm. This relation be-
tween urban in-use stocks of industrialized
and less-developed countries is significant
for all metals thus far examined.
Differences in national in-use stocks
As with the example of copper, differences
in in-use stocks can be seen in the case of
aluminum. The bar chart below right shows
current in-use stocks of different countries,
Europe, and worldwide. Japan and the United
States possess the highest in-use stocks and
exceed the value of China by 9 and 13 times.
In fact, the average values of per capita in-
use stocks of aluminum for Europe, Japan
and the United States is more than four times
higher than the world average value.
Both examples show that most in-use stocks
currently reside in more developed countries.
The average per capita stock in industrialized
countries for copper is about 230kg, for alu-
minum about 340kg.
Global in-use
stocks of
Aluminum
Aluminum per Capita in Different Countries
World 2003
China 2005
Europe 2004
Japan 2000
USA 2000
0 200 300 100
kg/Capita
400 500 600
Dynamics
16
Demographic growth and economic
development
Differences in current in-use stocks are the
result of economic development. The tempo-
ral accumulation of in-use stocks shown be-
low demonstrates that the copper stock per
US citizen quadrupled over the last 70 years.
This tendency suggests that if the popula-
tions in fast growing emerging economies are
going to use a similar suite of technologies
and lifestyles, global in-use metal stocks re-
quired would be 39 times those existing at
present.
Mind the gap
As has been shown, there is reasonably good
understanding of the in-use stocks of two
major engineering metals: aluminum and
copper. There are, however, still too few stud-
ies with differing spatial or temporal refer-
ences for a profound comparison with, for
example, precious or specialty metals. The
availability of worldwide data for a large vari-
ety of metals on equal spatial and temporal
resolution is actually not available. A reason-
ably detailed picture of in-use stocks and in-
use lifetimes exists for only more developed
countries and the major metals aluminum,
copper, iron, lead, and zinc. The data dem-
onstrate that every citizen in the more devel-
oped countries can be credited with an in-use
stock between ten and fifteen metric tons of
these metals.
The limited data suggest that per capita in-
use stocks in more-developed countries typi-
cally exceed those in less-developed coun-
tries by factors of five to ten.
Closing this data gap is a large challenge for
the evaluation of stocks and therefore their
use in making informed inferences about the
future.
Dynamics of in-use stocks in society
Development of
copper stocks
Development of Copper Stocks in the USA
USA 1932
USA 1948
USA 1960
USA 1979
USA 2002
0 100 150 50
kg/Capita
200 250 300
The mines of the future
17
Worldwide stock building
The already existing anthropogenic metal
stockpile is gigantic. Continuously grow-
ing metal prices in the commodity markets
indicate a dynamic demand for metals in
emerging countries due to economic growth,
and in industrialized countries due to modern
technologies with dissipative metal applica-
tions.
Urban mining as key strategy
Urban in-use stocks possess a high relevance
for potential metal supply. The shift of mining
activities from natural towards anthropogenic
resources has to move into focus, not only in
the interest of national metal supply but also
on the global level. Total metal losses have to
be reduced and recycling infrastructures and
technologies have to be fostered in industrial-
ized, emerging, and less developed countries.
Taking advantage of anthropogenic mines
has a great potential to reduce dependency
on virgin metal resources and mitigate the
environmental degradation often caused by
mining activities. The enhanced exploita-
tion of already known urban stocks and the
detection of hibernating stocks (metal not in
active use but not yet recovered, as in unused
railroad bridges) is a key strategy in moving
toward sustainable metal supply.
The mines of the future
Recycling of metals
18
Recycling of metals
Metals recycling today
Metals are regarded as having excellent
properties for recycling. For metals such as
iron/steel, aluminum, and copper recycling
has a long tradition. In these cases appro-
priate recycling infrastructure and recycling
technologies exist in many countries, involv-
ing scrap dealers, dismantlers, operators of
shredder plants, etc.. However, the report
Recycling rates of metals: a status report
has discovered tremendous weak points in
global metals recycling.
The reasons are manifold. The lack of basic
recycling infrastructure and modern recy-
cling technologies in many developing coun-
tries and emerging economies causes dissi-
pative losses even of base metals like steel.
A second main reason is the phenomenon of
new and complex applications of metals at
mass production scales in the last three de-
cades. Mobile phones, solar panels, new light
weight materials, catalysts, batteries, and
many more have created a new era of metal
use. The modern applications often employ
low concentrations of specialty metals like
gallium, indium, and rare earth elements for
which currently almost no recycling infra-
structure exists.
New scrap and old scrap
To understand the key challenges of metals
recycling in the 21st century it is necessary to
distinguish between the main types of scrap
the so-called new scrap and old scrap. New
scrap is generated in manufacturing pro-
cesses and has lives of weeks to months un-
til its return to the production process. It has
a known composition and origin. When it is a
non-contaminated pure metal or alloy it can
often be recycled within the processing facil-
ity. If contaminated, it might be sent to an ex-
ternal facility. This recycling of new scrap is
generally economically beneficial and easy to
accomplish. It may not be identified in recy-
cling statistics, but can sometimes be esti-
mated from process efficiency data.
The second major category is end-of-life (EOL)
scrap, or old scrap, which may be returned
to the EOL phase within weeks (a beverage
can) to decades (turbines or cars). This is ma-
terial recovered from products, and often con-
stitutes mixtures of elements, alloys, plastics,
and other constituents which need detailed
processing to obtain recyclates for raw ma-
terials production. Functional recycling is the
decisive EOL recycling approach in contrast to
non-functional recycling (sometimes termed
downcycling), which means that the metal
or alloy is lost in another dominant material
flow (often that of common steel scrap).
19
End-of-life (EOL) recycling rates
The most important parameter to measure
the efficiency of an overall recycling system is
the functional EOL recycling rate. The func-
tional EOL recycling rate excludes non-func-
tional recycling flows of discarded products,
and depends on the efficiency of all single
steps in the recycling chain: collection, sepa-
rating, sorting, and final metal recovery. An
important thing to note is that a function-
al EOL recycling rate of (for example) 40 %
means that there are 60 % losses of a valu-
able metal.
Recycled content
The metric recycled content (also termed
the recycling input rate) describes the frac-
tion of recycled metal (from new scrap and
old scrap) in relation to total metal input. This
measure is of limited relevance for metals,
however, for two reasons. First, the long life-
times of many metal products in combination
with high growth rates makes achieving a
high recycled content difficult because of the
limited availability of secondary metals. Sec-
ond, because metals can be recycled more
than once, it is unclear how the ratio should
be computed.
Natural Resources
Recycling
Discarded Waste &
Downcycling
Primary Metal Input
Refined Metal
Products
EOL Products (Metal Content)
EOL Collected Metal
EOL Recycled Metal
Metal Flows
New Scrap
Fabrication/
Manufacturing
Production
Waste Management
Use
20
Recycling of ferrous metals
21
Recycling rates of ferrous metals
Overview of ferrous metals
The ferrous metals are predominantly iron-
based, and mostly magnetic. Iron is the prin-
cipal constituent of steel, and steel is by far
the most widely-used metal. In 2009 more
than 1.2billion tonnes of steel were produced
worldwide, and the demand for steel es-
pecially in emerging economies is growing
further. The other ferrous metals (vanadium,
chromium, nickel, etc.) are components in
steel, stainless steels, and superalloys. It is
important to mention that for stainless steel
and other special alloys separated recycling
flows exist in practice, because the properties
of those materials are lost if they are mixed
with common steel scrap.
End-of-life recycling rates of steel
and the ferrous metals
Functional end-of-life recycling rate esti-
mates for steel and its major alloying met-
als are listed in the report. The range of the
figures, often obtained by different methods,
is wide and a high level of uncertainty in the
data is present. However, with these existing
data an end-of-life recycling rate of 7090 %
can be estimated for iron and steel. This val-
ue is one of the highest end-of-life recycling
rates among all the industrially-used metals.
The reasons are a very long tradition of steel
in different applications with mature recycling
systems, the often large quantities of new
and old scrap (e. g., from demolition waste),
and the well-established recycling infrastruc-
ture for steel in many countries.
More than 50 % end-of-life recycling rates
could be found for manganese (present at
0.31.0 % in nearly all steels) niobium (used
in high strength-low alloy steels and super-
alloys) nickel (often a constituent of stain-
less steels and superalloys) and the stainless
steel constituent chromium. Molybdenum fol-
lows with rates between 2550 %, while vana-
dium is below 1 %.
22
Non-ferrous metals
23
Overview of non-ferrous metals
The non-ferrous metals contain no iron, and
are used in quantities second only to the fer-
rous metals. Aluminum is used principally in
construction and transportation and has the
second largest production figures of all met-
als (more than 30 million tonnes per year).
Copper is third among the metals (about
24million tonnes in 2007) and sees wide use
in conducting electricity and heat. Cobalts
major uses focus on superalloys, catalysts,
and batteries. Leads use centers on batter-
ies. Magnesium is used in construction and
transportation. Tins major uses are in cans
and solders. Titaniums main applications are
paint and transportation while zincs major
use is in coating steel (galvanizing).
The recycling structures for the non-ferrous
metals are quite different and depend on the
specific applications and the amount of ma-
terial flows. Separate recycling infrastruc-
tures exist for copper, aluminum, and lead,
respectively. In the case of aluminum the dif-
ferent compositions of aluminum alloys play
a major role. On the other hand cobalt and tin
are often embedded in mixed old scrap which
effort special sorting and pretreatment pro-
cedures. The recycling of zinc is significant-
ly interlinked with steel recycling procedures
because steel is often coated with zinc for
corrosion protection.
Recycling rates of the non-ferrous
metals
Most of the non-ferrous metals are widely
enough used, and often sufficiently valuable,
that their recycling and reuse rates are rea-
sonably high. This is especially true for lead
(EOL recycling rate > 50 %), which is mostly
used in large vehicle and industrial batteries
that are returned and subsequently recycled
in commercially and industrially linked re-
cycling chains. For aluminum and copper a
wide range of EOL recycling rates are report-
ed. Nevertheless, for both these important
metals an EOL recycling rates > 50 % is esti-
mated. High EOL recycling rates are also re-
ported for cobalt, tin, titanium, and zinc. For
magnesium, EOL recycling rates in the range
> 2550 % are estimated. The wide range of
rates reported reflects the significant data
uncertainties for the non-ferrous metals.
Recycling rates of non-ferrous metals
24
25
Recycling of precious metals
Recycling rates of precious metals
Overview of precious metals
Precious metals like gold, silver, and plati-
num are sufficiently valuable that they are ef-
ficiently recycled except in some applications
and/or when used in very small amounts
(e. g., silver in mirrors or car glass; platinum/
ruthenium in computer hard disks) or when
end-of-life products do not enter into an ap-
propriate recycling chain. The end-of-life re-
cycling rates for the platinum group metals
palladium (6070 %), platinum (6070 %) and
rhodium (5060 %) seem to be the highest
among the precious metals. Silver and gold
follow with EOL recycling rates > 50 % when
coins and jewellery are taken into account in
addition to the technical applications (elec-
tronics, dental etc.). Iridium which is used
mainly for industrial catalysts is ranked in
the > 2550 % range for the EOL rate, and ru-
thenium used for electronics as well as for
industrial applications is estimated in the
> 10 25 % category. Osmium is rarely used
and no significant recycling data are avail-
able.
The platinum example
Taking the relative price levels of precious
metals into account, it seems surprising that
those metals do not have the highest end-of-
life recycling rates among all metals. A gram
of platinum for instance represents a price
of about 50 $ (or more) so there should be
enough incentive for recycling. Furthermore,
experienced actors and state of the art fa-
cilities already exist to refine precious met-
als from many applications. But assessing
the recycling rates of the different platinum
applications provides a deeper insight. For
industrial applications the recycling rate of
platinum is 8090 %. However, the rate for
platinum from automotive catalysts (5055 %)
and electronics (05 %) is much lower. Obvi-
ously, consumer applications are more dif-
ficult to address by recycling than industrial
applications. This is a well-known phenom-
enon among recycling experts, and platinum
is merely an example for many other metals
and applications. Therefore, enhancing recy-
cling rates for consumer applications is a key
strategy for platinum and many other metals.
26
End of life recycling
End of life recycling rates
1
H
2
He
3
Li
Lithium
4
Be
Beryllium
5
B
Boron
6
C
7
N
8
O
9
F
10
Ne
11
Na
12
Mg
Magne-
sium
13
Al
Aluminum
14
Si
15
P
16
S
17
Cl
18
Ar
19
K
20
Ca
21
Sc
Scandium
22
Ti
Titanium
23
V
Vanadium
24
Cr
Chromium
25
Mn
Manga-
nese
26
Fe
Iron
27
Co
Cobalt
28
Ni
Nickel
29
Cu
Copper
30
Zn
Zinc
31
Ga
Gallium
32
Ge
Germani-
um
33
As
Arsenic
34
Se
Selenium
35
Br
36
Kr
37
Rb
38
Sr
Strontium
39
Y
Yttrium
40
Zr
Zirconium
41
Nb
Niobium
42
Mo
Molybde-
num
43
Tc
44
Ru
Ruthenium
45
Rh
Rhodium
46
Pd
Palladium
47
Ag
Silver
48
Cd
Cadmium
49
In
Indium
50
Sn
Tin
51
Sb
Antimony
52
Te
Tellurium
53
I
54
Xe
55
Cs
56
Ba
Barium
5771 72
Hf
Hafnium
73
Ta
Tantalum
74
W
Tungsten
75
Re
Rhenium
76
Os
Osmium
77
Ir
Iridium
78
Pt
Platinum
79
Au
Gold
80
Hg
Mercury
81
Tl
Thallium
82
Pb
Lead
83
Bi
Bismut
84
Po
85
At
86
Rn
87
Fr
88
Ra
89103 104
Rf
105
Db
106
Sg
107
Sg
108
Hs
109
Mt
110
Ds
111
Rg
112
Uub
113
Uut
114
Uug
115
Uup
116
Uuh
117
Uus
118
Uuo
57
La
Lantha-
num
58
Ce
Cerium
59
Pr
Praseo-
dymium
60
Nd
Neodymi-
um
61
Pm
62
Sm
Samarium
63
Eu
Europium
64
Gd
Gadolini-
um
65
Tb
Terbium
66
Dy
Dysprosi-
um
67
Ho
Holmium
68
Er
Erbium
69
Tm
Thulium
70
Yb
Ytterbium
71
Lu
Lutetium
89
Ac
90
Th
91
Pa
92
U
93
Np
94
Pu
95
Am
96
Cm
97
Bk
98
Cf
99
Es
100
Fm
101
Md
102
No
103
Lr
> 50 %
> 2550 %
> 1025 %
110 %
< 1 %
Indium bullion (photo by courtesy of
Umicore Precious Metals Refining)
27
Overview of specialty metals
The 37 specialty metals are the largest group
of the 60 metals that were investigated. Most
of these metals can be thought of as new-
comers regarding their technological appli-
cations. Many of them show therefore a rap-
idly increasing relevance in the last 3 decades
or even in the last few years, driven by inno-
vative technologies with high potentials for
a sustainable future. Lithium is very impor-
tant for modern batteries (hybrid and electric
vehicles), gallium, germanium, indium, and
tellurium show growing relevance for solar
cells, and the rare earth metals are essential
for many applications such as catalysts, bat-
tery constituents, and permanent magnets
(electric power drives, wind turbines, etc.). It
can be expected that the demand for many
specialty metals will grow rapidly in the next
few years due to the increasing market po-
tentials of new and innovative technologies.
The indium example
The report shows that for most (32) of the
37specialty metals the current end-of-life
recycling rates are very close to zero (< 1 %).
The indium example exemplifies the story
for many specialty metals. Indium demand
has grown rapidly in the last 20 years due to
several modern and innovative applications:
liquid crystal displays (TVs, notebooks, etc.),
semiconducters, solders, and solar cells.
These widespread consumer applications of
indium constitute a major challenge regard-
ing recycling logistics and the development of
a suitable legal framework. The concentra-
tion of indium in old scrap is quite low, and
suitable sorting and pre-treatment infra-
structure is rare. As a consequence, the end-
of-life recycling of indium and many other
specialty metals is still in its infancy.
Recycling of specialty metals
Recycling rates of specialty metals
The figure presents information for the metals in what-
ever form (pure, alloy, etc.) recycling occurs. To reflect the
reliability of the data or the estimates, data are divided into
five bins: > 50 %, > 2550 %, > 1025 %, 110 % and < 1 %.
It is noteworthy that for only twelve of the sixty metals the
experts estimate the end-of-life recycling rate to be above
50 %. Another eight metals are in the 2550 % group, and
four more in the 1025 % group.For a very large number,
little or no end-of-life recycling is occurring today.
Lessons
28
The global dimension of metal
stocks
On a global scale, in-use stocks of met-
als in society are growing every year. More
people need more houses and ask for more
cars, electrical devices, and other consum-
er goods. More people ask for energy in their
houses and for pharmaceutical products. The
more industrialized countries show much
higher per capita stocks of metals than do
the less developed countries. But the emerg-
ing economies play the game too, and there-
fore further growth of metal stocks in human
society can be foreseen. Despite the obvious
data gaps for many metals, it is obvious that
the increasing in-use stocks are the mines of
the future.
The circular economy is a key
answer for the future
The results of the investigations concerning
end-of-life recycling rates are disappointing
at first glance currently a large share of the
secondary metal resources are lost. For only
eighteen metals (aluminum, cobalt, chromi-
um, copper, gold, iron, lead, manganese, nio-
bium, nickel, palladium, platinum, rhenium,
rhodium, silver, tin, titanium, and zinc) is the
very important EOL-RR above 50 % at pres-
ent. But the better results for some tradition-
al and important metals like steel, aluminum,
copper, and lead prove that there is a learn-
ing curve for recycling. In the 21st century
this learning curve needs acceleration, be-
cause the variety and complexity of applica-
tions which embed metals (in a mobile phone
at least 60 elements) is increasing. Further-
more, more and more countries in the world
face rapidly growing waste flows for which
they have no appropriate recycling infrastruc-
ture. Therefore, enhanced technology trans-
fer and international cooperation should be
decisively accelerated by international recy-
cling conferences, technological implemen-
tation programs in emerging economies and
developing countries, and specific scientific
exchange programs.
Lessons
Urgent issues
29
Research & development
Understanding the potential of urban mines
is severely limited as a result of the sparse
information currently available on in-use
stocks and on recycling rates. Limitations in
recycling technology also are strong con-
tributors to low recycling rates. Enhanced
government support for data acquisition and
analysis, recycling technologies research,
and other research and development efforts
is thus a priority. Such efforts could focus
on issues such as recycling demonstration
plants, closed-loop recycling of rare earths
from batteries, and tantalum from electronic
scraps.
Stopping illegal waste transport
Despite existing regulations like the Basel
Convention the shipment of waste to coun-
tries without basic waste treatment and re-
cycling infrastructure is an increasing glob-
al problem. The export is often incorrectly
declared as export of second-hand goods.
Therefore international organizations like
UNEP and OECD have to multiply their en-
gagement in the monitoring and controlling
of illegal scrap exports, which often contain
metals with long-term supply concerns.
Continuous improvements of
legislative systems
The growth of global metal demand is cur-
rently faster than the adaption of legislation
concerning recycling. Continuous improve-
ments of the legislative systems in the indus-
trialized countries are urgently needed in or-
der to enable better recycling rates for many
metals and post-consumer goods. The more
developed countries should reinforce their at-
tempts to help the less developed countries
install appropriate legislative systems and
ensure their enforcement in order to take ad-
vantage of metal stocks in society.
Urgent issues
30
Glossary
Glossary
Ferrous Metals
V Vanadium
Cr Chromium
Mn Manganese
Fe Iron
Ni Nickel
Nb Niobium
Mo Molybdenum
Non-Ferrous Metals
Mg Magnesium
Al Aluminum
Ti Titanium
Co Cobalt
Cu Copper
Zn Zinc
Sn Tin
Pb Lead
Precious Metals
Ru Ruthenium
Rh Rhodium
Pd Palladium
Ag Silver
Os Osmium
Ir Iridium
Pt Platinum
Au Gold
Specialty Metals
Li Lithium
Be Beryllium
B Boron
Sc Scandium
Ga Gallium
Ge Germanium
As Arsenic
Se Selenium
Sr Strontium
Y Yttrium
Zr Zirconium
Cd Cadmium
In Indium
Sb Antimony
Te Tellurium
Ba Barium
La Lanthanum
Ce Cerium
Pr Praseodymium
Nd Neodymium
Sm Samarium
Eu Europium
Gd Gadolinium
Tb Terbium
Dy Dysprosium
Ho Holmium
Er Erbium
Tm Thulium
Yb Ytterbium
Lu Lutetium
Hf Hafnium
Ta Tantalum
W Tungsten
Re Rhenium
Hg Mercury
Tl Thallium
Bi Bismut
31
THIS BOOKLET SUMMARIZES the first two reports of the Global Metals Flows Group
the full reports are available on CD-Rom (see page 27 of this summary booklet). In its first two met-
al reports, Metal Stocks in Society: Scientific Synthesis and The Recycling Rates of Metals: ASta-
tus Report, UNEPs International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management addresses the issue of
mines above ground.
Economic development is deeply coupled with the use of metals, but the growing demand implies a
permanent pressure on the natural resource. In contrast, the growing metal stocks in our society can
serve as mines above ground. However, there are considerable data gaps regarding the size of these
metal stocks and their recycling potential. These gaps have to be filled. The recycling rates of many
metals are low. Open material cycles are typical for consumer goods like appliances and electronics.
Therefore, these product groups need special attention. Recycling rates are very low for specialty met-
als like indium, for which an appropriate recycling infrastructure still has to be developed. This devel-
opment needs to be supported by policy instruments such as research and development, economic in-
centives, and capacity building activities. Tapping the full potential of mining above ground and clos-
ing of material cycles with appropriate global infrastructure are essential if we are to establish a green
economy and to secure sustainable development.

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